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Hello Jim Crow!

Apparently, not only is Jim Crow alive and well, he isn’t even pretending to be hidden any more. What makes me say that? Well let’s start with a curious incident in Philadelphia. Seem a day camp paid for their kids to be able to swim one day a week at a private club. First time the kids show up to swim? They get booted out for changing the complexion of the club. The money is to be refunded, but I don’t think that’s going to make up for being told that the club doesn’t allow minorities. And then, when a new location offers their pool? The responses to the news article announcing it make it clear that this wasn’t a one off incident. A whole lot of folks in “post-racial” America are still spouting the same old bigotry. And you know, after a good five minutes of yelling (because for some reason I had deluded myself that things were much better than they used to be), I got myself under control and fired off an angry email and had a few unpleasant thoughts about Philly and moved on. I even told myself that as bad as the situation was, at least things weren’t *that* bad.

Until this morning, when someone sent me a link to an article about Eric Frimpong. Now, I’ve made no secret that feminism and I are not on the best of terms and in a lot of ways I’m more of a womanist than anything else. But, as I read the article and notice the victim rights groups led marches and blasted his supporters for not believing the victim I find myself thinking of a great uncle that I never got to meet. Because he was killed long before I was born. In fact if it weren’t for stumbling into an adult conversation I’m not sure that I would have known anything about him. Why? Because he was lynched for looking at a white woman. And it was totally by accident that after he was killed, her father took the land that he was sitting on when Miss Ann was supposedly assaulted by his reckless eyeballing. At least that was the story around those parts in those days. And I guess have improved if these days a falsely accused MOC gets to live (albeit in jail) instead of wind up as strange fruit. Of course I wouldn’t call that much of an improvement when you consider how much he’s lost as a result of being charged and convicted. And you know, I always hear about the American justice system and how much better it is now. But when someone can be convicted despite DNA evidence that points to someone else entirely? I’m not so sure that Jim Crow isn’t sitting comfortably in the courtrooms too.

As some of you know I’m a mother of two boys. And we live in Chicago (a town with an ugly racial history all its own), and now that my oldest son is a pre-teen we have all kinds of conversations about sex and relationships and other things that make him turn red and me grit my teeth and tell myself that I must let my baby grow up. But, I don’t know how to prepare him for a world where even with DNA evidence pointing to someone else he can be convicted. I don’t know how to prepare him for the possibility that he’ll be turned away from an activity he paid for because of the color of his skin. Then again, I guess my grandmother probably struggled with how to prepare me to navigate life in a city where on top of the gangs and drugs incidents like the the Burge torture cases preceded Ryan Harris case and Lenard Clark cases. Now the last two cases happened after I was already grown and gone, but make no mistake she worried all the time about what could happen to me (I’m the one with a big mouth that had a white cop call me a pushy nigger bitch when I was 12) and to my cousins. Because I have a great uncle that I never met and she had a brother that only lived in her memories. And the last thing any of us want is for Jim Crow to grow fat and strong and sassy again. But he sure seems to be on his way, and I don’t know how to stop him when he’s woven so tightly into the fabric of America.

18 thoughts on “Hello Jim Crow!”

  1. Trinidad. Adventist. Gay?! says:

    I hope you don’t go around telling him he may encounter this.
    I am a strong believer in a positive life. Teach him how to create a positive life–to set his life direction rather than going with the flow or merely responding to external situations.

    He must see his primary destiny as lying in His hands–not the vagaries of others. He has nothing to lose.

    I was mad at that story for 15 minutes and then I decided it wasn’t worth it. What kind of future do these club-goers have? What kind of existence?

    Let’s rise beyond that and leave them to their own devices.

  2. karnythia says:

    If their own devices didn’t include the possibility of him going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit it would be a lot easier to ignore them.

  3. Sundjata says:

    [This is not directed at you Trinidad. Your comment simply reminded me of a mindset I typically hear in response to Jim Crow racism in 2009.]

    I’m a little tired of “rising above” and ignoring these purportedly isolated events. When the perpetrating group owns the means by which we define and attain a good life, we cannot and should not be angry for a few minutes and just turn it in for a more positive life. That life is being denied us–even when we pay for it. Not even the almighty dollar can purchase respect.

    This doesn’t mean that we ought to sit and bubble in our anger, but something like this is indicative of systemic racial prejudice that has yet to be rooted out–partly because those who suffer most from it have sort of turned in the struggle and rested on the many battles won by our antecedents. However, as these two articles show, we may have won a few battles, but the war rages on whether we choose to join the fight or not. This bothers me to no end.

    I’m not sure why my people are interested in peace to a fault. I’m not calling for a physical war, but when you search through the blogosphere, think of past run-ins you’ve had, news reports you’ve listened to, and articles you’ve come across, it is clear that there is an assault on our very selves. What shall we do? Shall we pretend that all is well and wait for Jesus, Allah, Buddha, or whomever else to save us? In our various faiths, we should also have faith in our abilities to organize bring about change–change that those in power have no need or desire to bring to fruition. No group is so moral and righteous and charitable as to just give up power freely. We can forget about that!

    We ought to discuss ways to do something about this stuff. That’s a step in a positive direction.

  4. Annie Anderson says:

    Yes, unfortunately, racism is alive and well in America. I am white . . . but my children are Filipino and my husband is Korean. We have snide comments and rude looks made at us often.

    And it makes me angry. Because how do I teach my children love and tolerance when they see bigotry at every turn?

    Stories like Eric Frimpong’s should anger us. It should NOT MATTER what color a person’s skin is. And yet, you are right – somehow, it does. Somehow Jim Crow is alive and well. Not just against blacks – but against anyone who is not white.

    I don’t know how to stop it, either. But I know there has to be a way . . . and it includes all of us – no matter the color of our skin – standing up together.


  5. Bindicated says:

    When I first read that story and the part about “changing the complexion” I thought, well, at least that’s honest. Most people try to cover up their racism by attributing their choices to other, less ignorant, motivations. But now I read on cnn that the club is defending itself by saying that it was simply a matter of not having enough *room* for the new kids. It’s so disheartening… how can anything change if people won’t own up to their racism?? The first step is admitting you’ve got a problem, people! Also, I read through as many of the comments that you linked to as I could bear, Karnythia, and that is some disturbing shit. My condolences on the tragic loss of your great uncle.

  6. osiyo says:

    I think there’s something distinct going on lately. More and more racism is popping up out in the open like this, where there’s not even a chance of deniability. I’ve already been told I’m lying about being Indian on a feminist blog, and have had the conditions on reservations dismissed as trivia.

    Now I read this and wonder when racists decided not to bother with pretenses anymore.

    1. Juan says:

      Ever since we (i.e. the U.S.) got a Black prez, racism really doesn’t exist anymore. According to the comment section from the news article and numerous apologist, It’s all in our minds.

    2. Thejudge says:

      “Indians don’t exist anymore” especially if you don’t look like the posters. The same people negating your existence are doing so because of their preoccupation with “Indian money.” They act as if it’s coming out of their pockets and have no knowledge of the atrocities done.

      1. osiyo says:

        I was basically accused of “whoring out” my culture to silence the other feminists, because clearly, my culture and background couldn’t have anything to do with my critisim of a white female politician…nope. I was just being sexist in their eyes and using my culture to silence them.

        To me, that sounds like ” you’re playing the race card” but what do I know? I’m just a dumb Indian.

      2. Momsomniac says:

        “Indians don’t exist anymore” especially if you don’t look like the posters. Indeed. The expectation of what various Native people in the US will “look like” is devoid of any knowledge of our histories.

  7. ???? says:

    I was mad at that story for 15 minutes and then I decided it wasn’t worth it.

  8. Angeline says:

    Research has repeatedly shown that people within minority groups experience better mental health when they have a realistic view of the obstacles they face. In other words, being prepared for the discrimination we will encounter and having productive ways of coping with it leads to much better outcomes than simply turning away from the ugly reality. Also, if we want things to be better, we have to speak out about these kinds of atrocities. Because people have spoken out, other clubs will be wary of engaging in the same kind of behavior. By speaking out, we can help keep law enforcement and justice institutions accountable and slowly turn the tide. I think that’s worth allowing some negativity into my life.

  9. Jonquil says:

    I have a question asked from ignorance.

    Do you think that explicit, unashamed racism has gotten worse, or do you think that it’s simply news for the first time?

    I’ve been wondering if what’s going on is that ten years ago, say, this pool story would have been, if anything, a local scandal that died out after a couple of days; now, with the Web, it gets nationwide attention.

    Like I said, I’m ignorant. Do you think more people are feeling free to show their asses, or do you think that ass-showing is more likely to make the news in the mainstream media?

    This, and a lot of scandals in the last year or so, have made me painfully aware that things that are shocking to me are *everyday life* for POC, and that being surprised — as opposed to “oh, fuck, not again” — is a luxury.

  10. Thejudge says:

    Racism has always been alive and well, especially in the northern cities. “This is where they love the race and hate the people” Avowed democrats who love diversity, as long as it stays in it’s own appointed neighborhood. I have lived all over the country and had more incidents in Penn, NY, Minnesota, Indiana, Rhode Island, etc. More so than in Paducah, Kentucky! I wish some of the stars, entertainers would take notice of these things and instead of buying bling, see cases like this and buy whatever, club, property. Protesting and laws are not going to work, it is financial power. We are not only working against racists but also purveyors of every single stereotype, within our own communities. It’s difficult to be taken seriously, When you have people tearing down the credibility. When I say this, I am reminded of a a time, when I was the only black professional on staff at a hospital. I had a good reputation, so they hired this guy who happened to be black, a year later. Next thing you know, this guy comes to work, telling all of his family problems;wife on drugs, cops showing up at work, car breaking down, poor quality work, etc. It’s the same situation, if we know that Jim Crow is looming and some of us are willing to fight, and be cultural ambassadors. How can we do so, when we have people playing into the hands of racists?

  11. cccH says:

    @ Thejudge, your comment expresses exactly what I believe to be true.

  12. Sasha says:

    PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION agianst this club.

    Here’s the petition please guys I encourage all of you to sign it. Its very simple name email zip city state and click.

    If can send it to your friends that would be great also, thank you.

  13. opit says:

    It look there’s more than one petittion on the go. I was e-mailed

  14. Melinda Bishop says:

    This is 2009. When will it stop? Never.

    I’m with Sundjata and Annie. By not standing up for what is right, we will continue to see incidents like this.

    America will NEVER be “post-racial”. Whoever says that is living a lie. They would prefer to be in denial and look the other way.

    @ Jonquil…yes, I agree with you 100%. It seems to be an eye-opener for some white-identified people when they realize that life is not smooth sailing for most POC. This is what riles me up, because although I’m biracial and so light that I could be white, I’m still a POC who experiences discrimination on a daily basis. I don’t have the luxury of being surprised about anything anymore. What you said is so true. And at least you, unlike some people I know in real life, are willing to actually acknowledge that there is a problem in society.

    @ Trinidad…that is a nice peaceful approach, but it also smacks of avoidance. It only perpetuates the sense of accepting the status quo, rather than calling people out on their bullshit. My husband is always saying that black people should “rise above” and “take responsibility”, but this is because he is unaware of his position as a white male in America. He is not a Black or biracial woman like me. I’ve explained that to simply “rise above” every petty insult and act of discrimination, whether blatant or subtle, simply means giving up and giving in.

    That is something I refuse to do.

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